Industry Hired Gun, Hostile to Health and Environmental Safeguards, Up for Key Regulatory Post in Bush Administration

March 12, 2001

Industry Hired Gun, Hostile to Health and Environmental Safeguards, Up for Key Regulatory Post in Bush Administration

Harvard Center Director Tapped for White House Office of Management and Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? John Graham, the man nominated to be the Bush administration?s regulatory gatekeeper, is a prominent, industry-backed academic who is hostile to basic health, safety and environmental standards.

His appointment would give industry a back door to the White House and enable it to step up its campaign to dismantle basic consumer protections under the pretense of applying “sound science,” according to an investigative report released today by Public Citizen.

The report details how the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which Graham runs, has been funded by industry groups that fight enforcement of health, safety and environmental safeguards. The report also outlines the regulatory rollback crusade Graham has embarked on in recent years to dismantle these standards. Graham, whose work is heavily funded by chemical companies and industrial interests, has been tapped to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the White House?s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). His appointment is subject to congressional confirmation.

The OMB is expected to play as critical a regulatory role in the Bush II administration as it did during the Reagan and Bush I administrations. During the Reagan-Bush I years, political appointees within OMB were given broad discretion to review and block new standards created by federal agencies, often at the direct request of chemical companies, polluters and manufacturers.

“The president has nominated someone intent on eradicating basic government safeguards to head the very office charged with overseeing them,” Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. “The public may never have heard of John Graham, but he could dramatically affect the quality of the air they breathe, the wholesomeness of the food they eat and the safety of the cars they drive. This is an obscure but powerful office.”

“The Senate must see the danger in confirming Mr. Graham to this spot. Doing so would have profound and troubling implications. Rather than being a fair-minded assessor, Graham would continue to conspire with the chemical polluters, the tobacco industry, automakers, the oil and gas industries and others to stop the issuance of safety protections. The Senate must delve into the many conflicts he would bring to the job and reject this nomination.”

A primary function of OIRA is to review regulatory analyses and calculations produced by federal agencies. It can use them to slow or stall new rules unfavorable to corporate interests. Virtually all significant new rules must be reviewed by this office. These include agency actions on industrial chemicals, fuel economy standards, air and water pollution levels, and virtually every other issue that is critical to human and environmental health.

Graham has devoted years to discrediting government regulators and shooting down safety standards using pseudo-science, Public Citizen?s report says.

Public Citizen?s study has been endorsed by Center for Science in the Public Interest, Health Care Without Harm, the Science and Environmental Health Network and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Public Citizen has sent letters to members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee who will be voting on Graham?s nomination.

Graham is a key player in a network of industry-funded hired guns who for years have produced bogus studies to disparage the methods of government regulators, Public Citizen found. Graham frequently is quoted in the media as a neutral expert without any mention of the fact that his Center is heavily funded by the very same industries whose damaging behavior is under discussion. His center has received grants from more than 100 major corporations, according to information on its Web site.

Public Citizen found that:

Graham solicited money from tobacco giant Philip Morris in 1991 to help fund his center, and five months later invited the company to review a chapter of his book on second-hand smoke. Internal company memos show that Big Tobacco relied on Graham?s work to discredit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to undermine an upcoming EPA assessment of the cancer-causing effects of second-hand smoke;

Graham?s center published a study in July 2000 concluding that a ban on using cell phones while driving is unwarranted, even though the federal government has recommended that drivers pull over before using a cell phone. The $300,000 study was funded by AT&T Wireless Communications; and

Graham frequently advocates industry positions to journalists, yet he often wildly distorts the facts. In 1997, he wrongly told the Associated Press that “most” of the 38 children killed by air bags had been decapitated, when in fact, they had not. He told ABC?s Good Morning America that a Center study had found that passenger side air bags cost $399,000 for each year of life saved. After harsh consumer criticism the study was peer-reviewed. When it was later published, the cost had been revised to $61,000, and the study concluded that air bags were a worthwhile investment, even though earlier he told Good Morning America they were not.

“A person with such disdain for public priorities should not be given a last-ditch veto over the will of the public,” Claybrook said. “Installing an industry-funded flack in such a crucial position would harm the public for generations.”

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